This week, one of our TMobile 5G iPhones was suddenly forced into “SOS mode” (essentially, no carrier connection, except for some sort of emergency calling).

Called 611 from another TMobile iPhone.

TMobile support did a few of the usual debug things like resetting network settings, then said their system says the IMEI is blocked and “contact point of purchase”, which in our case is Apple store. AFAIK Apple doesnt block IMEI numbers, the carrier does that.

As expected Apple said they did not place any kind of IMEI block; they said if they had done anything, we’d see some sort of prominent “activation lock” message.

On my second TMobile call, the 2nd-level support person said it might be a incorrectly-reported fraud block, such as someone at TMobile mis-typing the IMEI, and he sent an email to TMobile’s Fraud team telling them to remove the block.

The next day the iphone was still in SOS mode so I called TMobile back for the status, my third TMobile call, and escalated to a 2nd tech support person, who did more digging. He told me that:

(a) It was VERIZON (whom I’ve never used) who put a block on the IMEI for the phone, and

(b) TMobile has seen “multiple” instances recently of Verizon putting IMEI blocks on TMobile customers’ phones.

The TMobile support person sent an additional request to some other department that is aware of the Verizon issue. The block was removed about 6 hours later.

I do have a theory… when activating this phone (several months ago) some sort of Verizon “free 5G trial” activation offer popped up - unsolicited and unwanted - during my TMobile activation process. I doubt it is a coincidence, and wonder if Verizon captured the IMEI number at that time, then, months later, some other Verizon system flagged the IMEI number.